RANGERS tremendous start to the season continued at Ibrox this afternoon with a hard-fought victory over Hibernian.
It sees the Light Blues’ winning run extended to six from six games so far, and also sees them move six points clear of the side many see as one of the potential title contenders.
In scorching temperatures, there was a red-hot atmosphere as the teams took to the field in front of what was yet another capacity crowd at Ibrox.
It was Hibs who fashioned out the first chance of the game as Danny Wilson fouled Jason Cummings 30 yards from goal, but after dusting himself down, the visiting attacker could find only the back rows of the Copland Front much to the delight of the fervent Bears.
Rangers were a little sluggish in the opening stages, but a successful Martyn Waghorn attempt to close down Hibs’ ‘keeper Mark Oxley saw him feed Barrie McKay but the young winger was crowded out by the Hibs defence and they smuggled the ball clear.
Minutes later, a neat move involving James Tavernier and Kenny Miller saw the latter burst into the area before his cross was deflected behind for a corner, and from the resultant kick, McKay found the head of the unmarked Martyn Waghorn inside the six yard area but headed over when he really should have hit the target.
At the other end, there was a more than hairy moment when Wes Foderingham found Martin Boyle with a loose pass, but before the Hibs man could get a shot away, Lee Wallace thundered in with an excellent tackle to deny him an effort on goal.
Hibs were causing all sorts of problems for the Rangers defence, and after they again failed to clear their lines, Lewis Stevenson’s cross dropped for Cummings inside the area, but he failed to get a shot away to test Foderingham.
Out on the right wing, James Tavernier was being constrained well by the away defence, but after creating the opportunity to cross from deep, his ball was inches away from connecting with the toe of Waghorn who had made a darting run into the penalty area.
Minutes before half-time, Hibs had David Gray to thank for keeping them on level terms as he cleared a Waghorn effort off the line when a McKay corner wasn’t properly cleared before they raced to the other end where Boyle found Cummings inside the six-yard box, but Foderingham denied him with a quite excellent save.
Rangers began the second half much more brightly, and only an excellent save from Oxley denied Jason Holt from making it 1-0 when he got on the end of a Law cross before firing towards the bottom left corner.
A drilled McKay corner then needed only a touch from a blue jersey to steer it goalwards, but that wasn’t forthcoming as the ball slipped its way out for a shy on the other side.
Nathan Oduwa was then given a rousing reception when he replaced McKay just before the hour mark as boss Mark Warburton looked to add fresh impetus to his attack.
Hibs hadn’t done anything as an attacking threat in the second half until John McGinn found Liam Fontaine inside the area, but his header was well pushed away by Foderingham, and then a slip at the back allowed Cummings the chance to feed Liam Henderson, and with only the goalkeeper to beat, he fired wildly over the bar.
And within seconds, that missed opportunity was to come back to haunt Hibs as Rangers took the lead.
After winning a free-kick out on the left of the penalty area, James Tavernier stepped up and curled a quite wonderful effort into the top corner at the back post leaving Oxley completely stranded and sent Ibrox into raptures.
Hibs were almost level straight away again through Henderson, but he shot wildly over once more after combining once more with Cummings.
The game was going from one end to the other, and after a wonderful passing move involving Waghorn and Tavernier out on the right wing, Waghorn fed Miller inside the area but he couldn’t properly sort his feet out and he shot straight at Oxley.
Lee Wallace was next to try his luck when he burst down the left wing but his shot came off the advancing Oxley as Warburton’s men looked to kill the game.
As the minutes ticked down, Hibs went for broke in search of an equaliser, and only a fabulous Danny Wilson tackle prevented Lewis Stevenson from levelling matters on the 90 minute mark when he burst through on goal.
But 1-0 it finished, and Rangers now prepare for a League Cup tie at Airdrieonians on Wednesday night.
RANGERS (4-3-3): Foderingham; Tavernier, Kiernan, Wilson, Wallace; Holt (Shiels, 68), Halliday, Law; McKay (Oduwa 59), Waghorn, Miller (Clark, 83).
SUBS NOT USED: Kelly, Ball, Walsh, Hardie.
HIBERNIAN: Oxley, Gray (McGeouch, 50), Hanlon, Fontaine, Stevenson, Fyvie, McGinn, Henderson (Stanton, 89), Carmichael (Malonga, 77), Boyle Cummings.
SUBS NOT USED: Reguero, Bartley, Stanton, Martin, Dunsmore.
REFEREE: Mr Steven McLean